The State in/of Borderlands History
University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, Texas
November 6-7, 2015
Keynote Speaker: Kelly Lytle Hernandez (UCLA), author of Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol
The Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso announces the conference, “The State in/of Borderlands History,” to be held November 6-7, 2015. Although the state has been a defining and an often ominous presence in the history of the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands, the systematic and explicit study of the state has been rare in Borderlands historiography. While historians of the U.S. have recently devoted increased attention to the state, already a well-established focus of Mexicanists, social and cultural history has largely shaped the field of Borderlands history. Current scholarship on transnationalism and the history of empire has also challenged the “natural” character of the nation-state.
Yet, beginning in the colonial period, and in fact before, a variety of state structures have shaped human existence in the region. Those living in and traveling through the borderlands have encountered and engaged with the state through forced labor in armies, mines and missions, the collection of taxes, and military action as well as immigration control, border policing, education and public health regimes. In these and other arenas, state structures–national, local, indigenous, and/or transnational–have made themselves present in borderlanders’ lives and, in turn, been challenged and shaped by them. Borderlands, geographical and conceptual, can serve as a critical location for a new approach to understanding state formation and state power.
Newport Beach Marriott Bayview, fountain on the ground floor.
It felt like everyone I know was on their way to the Western Historical Association (WHA) in Newport Beach this year. After making sure some of my colleagues were confirmed on the program, I took a peak at its content. The program read like a “who’s who” of the most exciting junior and senior scholars in the field of borderlands history. I booked a room at the Marriot and made a beeline for SoCal. Before I continue, I should mention I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP). Our Borderlands Ph.D. program made a big showing at the conference (someone made an off the cuff remark stating we were the new SMU), and I made every attempt to visit those panels. However, I did manage to check out a few panels not featuring UTEP students. Here is a brief analysis of my experience at the WHA Conference 2014.
Whizzing down highway 5 on Wednesday (I live in the Bay Area these days) and coming face to face with L.A. traffic, I knew I would not make it to see the first panel organized by the Coalition for Western Women’s History Roundtable entitled “Women Crossing Borders.” Luckily at the opening reception that evening, I bumped into one of the presenters on the panel John McKiernan-González. We spoke briefly about the panel and Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Health and Race in North America, a new book he edited with Laurie Green and Martin Summers. Other scholars in attendance that evening were Eric Meeks, Sam Truett, as well as incoming President of the WHA Elizabeth (Betsy) Jameson. Seeing so many borderlands historians in one place was not only exciting, but helped to set the tone for the rest of conference. Continue reading
The following interview was conducted on Thursday, October 23 in the offices of B/orders in Motion at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt(Oder). Here, I talk with Dr. Andrea Meissner about the center, its mission and activities, and a fellowship opportunity for graduating MA students or early PhD students. Blogs in progress include a description of Viadrina’s international demographic and an exploration of the echoes and memory of the German Democratic Republic, whose main local offices are now occupied by the university. You can listen to the interview here.
Aaron Waggoner: Hello, my name in Aaron Waggoner, and today I’m with Dr. Andrea Meissner in the offices of the Viadrina Centre B/orders in Motion at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) on the border with Słubice, Poland. Dr. Meissner, so please tell me a little about yourself and your current position.
Andrea Meissner: I am the Scientific Coordinator of the Viadrina Center B/orders in Motion which is basically its manager. And from my scientific background I’m a historian, and I’ve been dealing with, in my dissertation, with nation building in Germany and Austria, so there are a lot of cross border processes. That’s something that connects me to the issues we are dealing with here.
Welcome / Bienvenidos / Willkommen / Witajcie
Hello border crossers, benders, and breakers! I’m excited to be sharing my experience with you as the Visiting Scientist for B/Orders in Motion. Over the next three months, I’ll be publishing comments, photos, and interviews from Frankfurt(Oder)/Slubice dealing with the European University Viadrina’s approach to border studies, the lived experience on the German/Polish border, and my work as a researcher and educator.
Richard Florida and the Creative Class Group recently examined the San Diego-Tijuana “mega-region” through the lens of regional economic development in an age when heightened national security is increasingly at odds with a globalizing economy. The resulting report, “From Border Barriers to Bi-National Promise” focuses on the established business and economic ties that connect San Diego and Tijuana, noting that a “frictionless border” would facilitate increased innovation and entrepreneurialism in industries such as high-tech on both sides of the border while allowing greater access to the thriving art, music, and culinary scenes in the mega-region. Unfortunately, the report offers that since 9/11, “The border has been seen as a national security issue rather than a commerce or economic development issue.”
Florida and his co-authors – most notably the University of California San Diego’s Mary Lindenstein Walshok – offer points to consider that are forward thinking and familiar to anyone studying the border region of the U.S. Southwest: Transportation infrastructure needs to be improved; investment needs to be made in more advanced technologies to manage border operations; and the U.S. government should separate policy from security, incorporating a wide range of departments when addressing border issues. Hopefully, this report will encourage policymakers in the fields of commerce and trade to push for reform.
What I found most illuminating about this report and salient to the study of borderlands history is how Florida conceptualizes the border defying mega-region in question. He states, “Place, not statehood, is the central axis of our time and our global economy.” Examining borderland regions in terms of “place” opposed to the geographically bounded spaces determined by borders drawn by nation-states could be useful to borderlands scholars researching other aspects of borderlands history, such as religion, culture, violence, and politics. This is true in my own work wherein documenting and understanding the sprawling expanse of South Texas and Northern Mexico over the course of a century is more a consideration of a place arbitrarily divided and not a space decided.
Click here for a full pdf of the report